By Mary O’KEEFE
For Crescenta Valley High School junior Joy McCreary, most Tuesday nights are pretty well planned for the next several months. McCreary will be found sitting on the panel alongside the Glendale Unified School District board of education members at their scheduled bi-monthly meetings.
The board has had student representatives since 1992. This is only the second time that a CVHS student has been chosen for the position.
The student board member is voted on by a student advisory board composed of representatives from each of the GUSD high schools. McCreary said she applied for the position by supplying two letters of recommendation, a resume and her school transcripts. She also had to deliver a speech and participate in a question and answer discussion with the advisory board.
“During the [presentation] I was asked how I was going to handle everything at school and represent the board,” McCreary said.
Previous student board members were mostly seniors, a year that more often is a little easier for students. McCreary is a junior with a hefty class load.
“I said that this was my priority. I had arranged [my schedule] to make my Tuesday nights free,” she said. “I was very firm in that [commitment].”
McCreary had wanted the position on the board for quite some time and had arranged her schedule accordingly. Her main job, she said, is to provide the board with information on what is going on at the different school sites like concerts, special presentations and student events.
“I send out an email once a week to all the schools,” McCreary said of how she gathers information. She presents the information during her board report, but beyond representing the school sites McCreary is also a voice for the students on various issues the school board faces.
“Like with Measure S and what I think the priorities should be,” McCreary added.
Measure S is a recently passed bond whose funds will focus on improving science and technology at the schools.
Because she is one of the few CVHS representatives who have sat on the school board, McCreary hopes to bring in the views of the Crescenta Valley schools.
“I want to be here for everyone but I will remember my roots and those that have supported me and … that is the community,” she said.
“We are delighted,” said CVHS Principal Michele Doll of McCreary’s appointment. “Joy is a leader that gives back to the school and her community. I admire her for what she stands for as a person and a student.”
Last year, McCreary was a clear and steady voice for the students in regard to the open lunch policy at CVHS. The school board had proposed to close the campus during lunch but several students, parents and organizations in the area opposed the closure as it was presented.
Doll said McCreary’s approach to leadership was evident during the open lunch policy discussions.
“That was very visible last year when she was part of the debate with open [lunch] campus,” Doll said.
McCreary said that although that remains an issue at her school, she knows there are other pressing issues that are facing the district as a whole.
She added that although each school site is different and CVHS is the only high school in the district with an open lunch policy, there are quite a few similarities.
“We are all really fighting for the same things,” she said. “Class size reduction is important. I don’t want to see an increase in class size. … That affects everyone in the district.”
Class size reduction is one of the programs that will be affected by the upcoming budget cuts, according to district officials.
“Prop. 30 did help, but it is not going to protect us from [budget] cuts,” she said.
Proposition 30 was approved by voters during the Nov. 6 election. Its passage stopped a proposed $6 billion in additional cuts to state public schools, according to Prop. 30 proponents. Funds are raised via taxes and the money is to be placed into an account dedicated to public schools.
Prop. 30, Measure S and countless other issues are what the school board faces on a daily basis. None of these issues are new to McCreary, yet the amount of information is a little daunting.
“I thought going [onto the board] I was pretty prepared. I have had some dealings with the politics [of education],” she said.
But she was surprised at the bureaucracy that goes along with every decision.
“You may really feel you need to do something [for a school site] but there are regulations and state codes that hinder you [from] helping,” she said.
This frustration echoes that of many adults on the school board who have had to learn to weave their way through regulations and rulings to get a positive result for the district. The GUSD board members attend meetings, sit on panels with other district members and pore over countless rules and regulation manuals issued both by the state and federal education departments just to stay ahead of the budget crisis.
“She is passionate about what happens at school but not only for her friends [and school], but for the entire district,” Doll said.
McCreary is looking forward to the school year on the board. She is improving her “meeting skills” and learning a lot from the adult board members. And like her fellow board members, she is concerned about the future.
“In regard to the budget, we are going to have to be really careful,” she said.